In the English language, we joke about people and things being “a pain in the neck.” When you have actual neck pain, it’s nothing to laugh at. Neck pain, whether acute or chronic, seriously impacts daily life. I know this personally, as I had major neck surgery a few years ago. Below you will find the main reasons for neck pain.
Psychological and physiological causes
According to a study on neck pain published by the Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care, neck pain is common and it can be challenging to figure out why you have it since it can have several causes, both psychological and physiological. In some cases, the neck isn’t even involved at all, the pain is a symptom of a problem elsewhere in the body. The difficulty with finding the cause is due to the physiology of the neck, as the bones, nerves, muscles and tendons are so close together.
There are two types of neck pain: acute and chronic. Acute neck pain lasts for a short amount of time, while chronic neck pain lasts for three months or more.
The Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care states, both types of neck pain can have the same causes:
- Repetitive movement (of lack of movement) that weakens the muscles
- Overuse of the cervical spine joints
- Wear and tear of spinal discs
- Issues with the vertebral canal
- Inflammation of spine or jaw
- Severe headaches
How aging affects neck pain
Often, neck pain is a result of aging. But, some people do develop problems like osteochondrosis or spondylosis. These disorders show up with reduced space between the vertebrae and with bone spurs developing on the edges of the vertebrae. Age does not affect whether or not people develop osteochondrosis.
Spondylosis and similar disorders
Spondylosis is easier for health care providers to diagnose. According to research published in the BMJ, spondylosis is diagnosed with a combination of these symptoms:
- Pain between the occiput, scapula, and arms
- Pain in the retro-orbital or temporal region
- Stiffness in the neck
- Numbness, tingling, or weakness in the arms
- Neck pain that is irritated by movement
- Balance issues
Don’t get this disorder confused with a similar sounding one; spondylolisthesis. The two conditions sound the same, but there are some significant differences. If you were to look at spondylolysis vs spondylolisthesis, you’d see that the second disorder is localized to the lower back. So, if you suffer from it, it probably isn’t also the cause of your neck pain, and you should get tested for other conditions.
Neck pain due to injuries, whiplash and repetitive use
Neck pain can be caused by injuries (whiplash, falls, etc) and repetitive movements/actions such as running, swimming and cycling. People who suffer from acute neck pain often visit chiropractic clinics such as Better Health Chiropractic in Anchorage. The Journal of Chiropractic Medicine has found chiropractic care helped ease acute neck pain. In the study, no adverse reactions were reported to the chiropractic treatment.
This was the case when I had my neck problems, and subsequent neck surgery. Even after surgery, I still have some pain, and I know how much massage can relieve neck pain. I’ve considered a massage chair. If you are looking at chairs, look at chiropractor-recommended massage chairs first.
Dr. Brent Wells, D.C. founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab in Alaska in 1998 and has been a chiropractor for over 20 years. His practice has treated thousands of patients from different health problems using various services designed to help give you long-lasting relief.
Dr. Wells is also the author of over 700 online health articles that have been featured on sites such as Dr. Axe and Lifehack. He is a proud member of the American Chiropractic Association and the American Academy of Spine Physicians. And he continues his education to remain active and updated in all studies related to neurology, physical rehab, biomechanics, spine conditions, brain injury trauma, and more.